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Mohammed bin Rashid’s vision transforms Dubai into a global driverless mobility

Al Tayer: Mohammed bin Rashid’s vision transforms Dubai into a global driverless mobility leader by 2030

13th February 2017

HE Mattar Al Tayer, Director General and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), said: “The Autonomous Mobility had become a fait accompli, and a continuously evolving. This technology has been tested in several countries including Dubai, Singapore, the United States and Britain. The Government of Dubai is leading the transition to driverless mobility in Dubai and is planning to take a leading position worldwide in Autonomous Mobility by 2030, whereas in other cities and countries, it is the private sector that leads the process. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has launched the Dubai Smart Autonomous Mobility Strategy where 25% of all journeys in Dubai would be transformed into driverless journeys by 2030. We anticipate that the percentage of journeys that would be made by the driverless Dubai Metro to reach 12.2% by 2030 compared with 8.8% in 2016. We anticipate that the percentage of journeys made by autonomous buses to reach 6.4% by 2030.”

Al Tayer delivered a speech to this effect entitled “Autonomous Mobility – Global Challenges and future Prospects” at the World Government Summit 2017.

During his speech, Al Tayer played a film about the Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV), which RTA is currently testing in cooperation with EHANG Company of China, the first ever-manned vehicle worldwide. “The AAV on display at the World Government Summit is not just a model but it has really flown in Dubai skies. RTA will spare no effort to launch the AAV in July 2017.”

5 Levels

During his speech, Al Tayer reviewed the current Autonomous Mobility, particularly from the governments’ prospective, as well as the expected benefits, saying: “Researches and studies related to  Autonomous Mobility started some decades ago, highlighted by fitting some vehicles with limited driverless features. These researches and techniques had evolved and have now reached to advanced levels. Software companies entered the Autonomous Mobility field over the last ten years including Apple Company, which invested $ 10 billion in iCAR, in addition to many car manufacturers such as Daimler, Volvo and Tesla, which conducted several successful test runs in this regard. According to the Classification of the American Society of Automotive Engineers, the Autonomous Mobility includes five levels for driverless mobility where Level 1 is limited to the vehicle’s self-stopping when approaching a hindrance; Level 5 is about the vehicle’s ability to travel anywhere under any circumstances without any human intervention.

The commercially available technologies now fall within Level 3 approximately where a driverless vehicle is available for limited periods in normal circumstances and requires the driver’s intervention under certain conditions. The current researches and studies fall between Level 4 and Level 5, where some companies are currently testing driverless vehicles on pre-defined or non-defined routes. Governments around the world have spent more than US$600 million to support researches related to driverless vehicles. This amount does not include the amounts disbursed by private companies. Some of these investments have been allocated to establish test & research centers in several parts of the world including Singapore, California, Michigan, Taiwan and Sweden. In Michigan, an integrated city has been established and dedicated to Autonomous Mobility researches called ‘M City.’ This city is fitted with full infrastructure including intersections, traffic lights and buildings, and spans an area of 130,000 square meters. This city, along with other similar ones, allow for conducting test runs in various scenarios including weather conditions and interaction with other vehicles and means of transportation. In addition, labs have been established to ensure the viability of this technology to achieve traffic safety and security standards.”

Pioneering position

“Dubai was able to carve out a nifty niche for itself among the world’s countries within a few years thanks to the vision of our wise leaders who set a clear-cut target of transforming 25% of all journeys in Dubai into driverless journeys by 2030. Dubai’s Metro is the world’s longest driverless metro which lifts more than 600,000 riders a day, in addition to Dubai Tram which is also fitted with some driverless features and Phase II will witness the operation of fully driverless trams,” added  Al Tayer.

“Dubai has also started the test run of driverless mini-buses, vehicles and boats, besides considering the options of deploying driverless express shuttle buses, and taxicabs from some leading companies.” Al Tayer also referred to the Last Mile Trip initiatives in collaboration with the private sector including the Hourly Rental System E-Kar & U-Drive by first providing the infrastructure for the electric and environment-friendly vehicles, which may be transformed into driverless vehicles in the future.  “Dubai aspires to take a leading position by 2030 basing on its Smart Autonomous Mobility Strategy, besides clear-cut targets, enacting & enforcing the required legislations and forging partnerships with specialized universities and research centers.”

Global Challenges 

Al Tayer then spotlighted the four key global & local challenges facing the Autonomous Mobility, namely: infrastructure, which includes high resolution & regular update of maps; road markings, traffic lights and clear directional signs; and Right of Way-oriented design. The second challenge is related to laws and legislations, which include the technical inspection specifications & licensing, insurance mechanisms, identifying responsible parties in case of accidents, terms and places where these vehicles are operated. Al Tayer referred to Dubai’s legislative system, which is known for its flexibility and keeping up-to-date with the new developments and changes. The third challenge is related to safety and public acceptance of driverless vehicles. Ordinary users may not be satisfied, particularly when the driverless vehicles share the same routes as ordinary ones. The governments must play a key role here in providing effective awareness to the public on the new technologies to the public in a way that promotes confidence. Al Tayer referred to the procedure taken by the RTA during the opening of the Dubai Driverless Metro, where a person was deployed to pose as a driver for a period of about six months just to reassure passengers and encourage them to use the metro. “The fourth challenge is related to technological requirements and the efficiency of sensors and cameras in various circumstances, as well as electronic piracy protection procedures. The manufacturers of driverless vehicles have to cope with numerous technological challenges including the difficulty to handle sudden changes during the journey including a sudden stop of another vehicle in front of the driverless vehicle; the difficulty to take the appropriate decisions when another vehicle approaches fast to the rear of the driverless vehicle; and the possibility of overlapping scanners of driverless vehicles, especially if many of them are running on a congested road.

Local Challenges

Besides these global challenges, there are other challenges facing Dubai including Harsh weather conditions (high temperatures, humidity) and their impact on driverless transportation technological systems, and the multi-nationalities and cultures in Dubai, being a world tourism & business hub (more than 190 nationalities). This may increase people’s reluctance to embrace modern technology. There is a need to provide suitable means of transport to drop passengers to their final destinations under the prevailing weather conditions “To cope with these challenges, we have prepared Dubai Smart Autonomous Mobility Strategy which, compared to other global strategies,  is characterized by the leading role of the Government of Dubai in the transition to driverless mobility, while in other cities and countries, it is the private sector that leads the process. Moreover, Dubai’s vision incorporates all mass transit modes such as trains, buses, marine transit modes and taxis, as well as private vehicles, while many countries focus on a limited number of transit modes. Our strategy also includes a global competition to attract advanced companies in the field of smart mobility, which we will announce later.

8 Enablers

Al Tayer stated that to beat those challenges, eight enablers have been identified and will be implemented in a parallel manner. These enablers are: enacting legislations and rules, enhancing community attitude and aptitude for technology, setting out conditions & regulations of issuing vehicle licenses, revising insurance regulations, fulfilling the requirements of infrastructure, combating electronic piracy, establishing communication between vehicles, and the constructing of high-definition maps.

He noted that the implementation of the Autonomous mobility has multiple benefits, and we have started in Dubai to reap some of these benefits through the driverless Dubai Metro including the improved punctuality to timetables by 6.4% compared with ordinary rail systems, and the reduced operational cost by 7%. We expect Dubai Autonomous Mobility Strategy to generate economic dividends to the worth of 22 billion dirham per annum, reduce the mobility expenditure by 44%, curb demand for parking by 50%, reduce carbon emissions by 12%, limit traffic accidents and associated losses by 12%, and enhance the happiness rating of residents by offering new mobility options.

Success Factors

The success of the Dubai Autonomous Mobility Strategy is based on a number of factors including the comprehensiveness and accuracy of information as well as their effective exchanging. To achieve this, we are currently constructing a unified center for merging all information of various transit means. The center will be opened shortly. We will also build effective partnerships with excellent businesses and universities. In this regard, the RTA has recently signed agreements with international firms such as Next Future Transport, Daimler and Hyperloop One. The RTA is also undertaking field tests with Easy Mile Company, and forging consortiums with international universities, research centers to carry out researches in the field of autonomous transport technologies in a way that befits the needs of Dubai Emirate.

Concluding his speech, Al Tayer was upbeat about the promising future of autonomous vehicles, saying, “The journey on an autonomous vehicle will soon be like boarding a lift. All of us trust the closed box that lifts us to different levels as we know it is secure, ready and tested. This is what the RTA is seeking to achieve through autonomous mobility strategy and associated initiatives.